"Canoe Festival", Kualoa Beach Park; by: Matthew Hom

by: Matthew Hom

For Willy Kauai and other Hawaiian leaders, teachers, and navigators involved in
the April 14th Canoe Festival at Kualoa Beach Park, the event was a way to share
the pride of Hawaiian seamanship and give thanks to Mau Pialug and the people
of the Pacific Island nations known as Micronesia that helped revive the art of
non- instrumental navigation in the Hawaiian community. Papa Mau, as he is
affectionately known viewed the ocean not a boundary but a roadway uniting the
peoples of the South Pacific. Defying cultural belief, he saw importance in sharing
his navigational knowledge with all Pacific Island peoples. This was not without
consequence for him in his community and his actions contributed to a wider
movement to revive Hawaiian cultural identities within the Hawaiian community.

Hosted by the Hālau Kū Māna Public Charter School, a group of Chuukese children
from Palolo Valley Homes were brought to the event for a day of learning and fun
at the beach. The children were guided by student leaders from Hālau Kū Māna and
taken onto canoes to venture out into the bay. Returning from their short voyage,
the children hopped into the water playing happily near the shoreline. Sam, one of
the children from Palolo Homes said he enjoyed paddling the canoe and, “getting
air!” Otto Pachas, a student involved in Kapiolani Community College’s service-
learning program that chaperoned the children felt the event was great for the
kids because it allowed them the infrequent opportunity to explore outside their
community. He noted that the children usually interacted and played within the
Palolo housing community. By bringing the children out to Kualoa, they were able
to play with children from other areas, enjoy the water, and better understand the
connection to the ocean that they share with other pacific island peoples. As another
group of children boarded the boat and drifted from the shore, the importance of the
ocean in uniting rather than dividing two Pacific Island cultures was apparent.

As many Micronesians travel to Hawaii for better opportunity, they face issues
in maintaining their cultural identities due to the social changes and widespread
prejudice they experience after they arrive. Bonnie Kahapea, an educator at Hālau
Kū Māna and a member of the 1999 Hokulea voyage spoke of how reciprocating
Papa Mau’s knowledge of navigation back to the Micronesian community was a way
to help strengthen the culture and identities in the children who attended. Kahapea
emphasized the importance of teaching her students at Hālau Kū Māna about Papa
Mau and the culture of Chuuk to help them better understand and have a deeper
respect for one of Hawaii’s most recent immigrant groups. For Kahapea, the beach
park was a space where two cultures could stand on equal ground to celebrate a
shared connection to the ocean, strengthen their ties, and honor the memory of
Papa Mau.